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City Council approves Four A development rezoning
4A property in Conyers IMG 9373
Property owned by Four A in Conyers, outlined in orange, between Iris Drive, Flat Shoals Road, and Parker Road just south of Interstate 20. Olde Town Conyers areas in pink.

After an evening of robust discussion with opinons expressed for and against Four A's 308-acre, 1,400 unit development, Conyers City Council unanimously approved the rezoning request that would allow the development to move forward Wednesday.

The rezoning application was approved with the requirement that the developer provide a master plan for the build-out of the mixed-use project and that the parcel must be developed as a whole with no individual sections being sold.

During public comments allowed prior to the council's votes, residents spoke for and against the development.

Tom Harrison, who previously chaired the Conyers-Rockdale Planning Commission, said, "If you do not approve the Mixed-Use Zoning for Four A, you will be making a mistake. The economy is beginning to turn around. You're beginning to see signs of that every day. In this economy, growth is good."  If the infrastructure is not in place, he added, building permits will not be given out.

David Slone, an attorney representing Four A International, pointed out the zoning the land is currently under already allows large scale commercial development, such as gas stations, liquor stores and malls. The traffic, water and resource demands would be there if the land was developed with the current zoning, he said. "The choice of the owner to invest in Conyers has not been a burden, but just the opposite," he said. "This project is reducing the impacts."

David Shipp, speaking as a private resident,  replied, "Corner Market does use services. It uses police, it uses fire, it uses fire and water. The apartments behind uses the school system... Yes the property owners have had the property for 30 years. This is the latest machination of what to do with the property. I believe it's not what we need... We need jobs, we need industry."

City resident Carol Anderson said she lives near the Four A property and she is concerned about the construction of more commercial space in the city as well as the depreciation of her property's value.  "I don’t feel comfortable with that being zoned mixed-use. I am not all for more empty space to come, we have too many empty spaces as it is. Even on Hwy 138 you have so many empty spaces up and down the whole corridor, you can’t just sweep that under the rug and build more spaces to resolve that issue."

Mayor Randy Mills pointed out that the council is charged with looking at the facts of the rezoning request and legal requirements.

Councilman Cleveland Stroud said, "The buildings that are not occupied, they (Four A) have not let it go down. It looks the same as when they built it.We're in a different situation now than when were in 2008, 2009."

Councilman Vince Evans said, "We're underestimating the ability of the school board to do what they're supposed to do - plan and provide for the growth of schools." He also pointed out during 1990 to 2000, in some years there were more than 1,000 permits handed out. If the school board could plan for that growth, they can handle 1,400 units in a 15-20 year buildout, he said.

Councilman John Fountain pointed out the present zoning is for heavy retail use. "There are no real conditions placed on that zoning... We should find it desireable to change that zoning. And we should find a way that the owner find it agreeable."

He added that he never thought he would be in favor of more multi-family housing but that there was a niche that was not being filled for young, affluent families who were moving to loft communities in Atlanta instead. "We have nothing to offer that desireable demographic group. This gives us the opportunity to" offer that.

City Attorney Mike Waldrop pointed out the city council only had a few options. If they deny the request, the owner could take the city to court and get the zoning put in place without the city's requirements. By allowing the request, the city can have some control over the development. The city cannot tell the owner they cannot develop their property, he said.

Carin Henry, a private citizen who said she collected about 150 signatures in a petition against the development, referenced an article published in this newspaper last week describing developments Four A has cited as examples similar to what the developers want to bring to Conyers. She said the Clark’s Grove neighborhood to her should serve as a learning experience for the the Four A developers. "My whole thing is ,we are a much smaller area with more population, why would we want to go with such a large-scale development that is going to be over 300 acres that is three times the size of Covington’s when Coviington has put a halt on what they are doing until the market improves?"

 Following the vote to approve Four A's rezoning application Henry said she was not surprised by the city council's vote. If the city enforces the agreements and the developer follows through as they promised, "We'll see," she said, trailing off.